A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine
Vol. 16 No. 01 25-31 DEC 2012
Saluting the Power of Protest
in the Indian State's 'Rape Capital'
If the brutal gang-rape of a 23-year old paramedical student in a moving Delhi bus on the night of 16 December had shocked the entire country, the unprecedented protests that have erupted since then, most prominently in Delhi itself, have come as a most encouraging sign of a growing democratic awakening and assertion in the country. The year 2012 could not possibly end on a more rousing note. Never before did Delhi, or for that matter any other Indian metropolis, see a protest of this magnitude and intensity on an issue of gender violence. The protests have been remarkable for the scale and range of popular participation - mostly spontaneous but also unmistakably aided and encouraged by the spirited participation of organised progressive groups of students, women and workers - as well as for the bold display of courage and determination in the face of water cannons, tear-gas shells, repeated raining of lathis, and above all, the monumental apathy and arrogance of the rulers.
The protests were necessary for the most deeply felt collective anger that was voiced so powerfully and creatively. More than the demands raised or ideas mooted to combat the ugly patriarchal evil of rape, the very fact that thousands came out to protest and demand justice was itself the biggest deterrent that can ever be thought of against sexual violence. The ideas voiced were no less urgent – the calls for fast-track courts to ensure speedy trial of rape cases and delivery of justice, or a special session of Parliament to discuss and fight the shame of sexual violence faced by Indian women in their domestic domain as well as public realm, are all immensely important.
The protests have clearly been a huge boost to the confidence of the people and certainly a great inspiration for every kind of progressive political imagination. Many fetters on free assembly of people that had been systematically enforced over the last two decades of neo-liberal governance were broken in just two days of spirited and courageous mass protests on December 22-23. November 25, 1992 was the last occasion when the Boat Club lawns had witnessed a massive public protest – it was the first powerful and united rally of Left-led trade unions against the assault of the policies of liberalisation and privatisation – before a ban was announced declaring that area out of bounds for people's protests. After two decades of insulation from public assembly, the Raj Path – the road that runs from the India Gate to the Rashtrapati Bhawan – regained its lost glory by emerging as the key battleground for justice and democracy.
Faced with a mass protest of this magnitude, the least that any responsive elected government must do is to reach out to the protestors, listen to their voice and provide a responsible answer. But on December 22-23, the whole world saw how miserably the much-touted largest democracy of the world lacked this basic spirit of democratic governance. Neither the leaders of the government nor the leaders of the ruling party had the decency or courage to come and face the protesting people. The Delhi Chief Minister, the only woman chief minister in the country to have been re-elected three times in a row, tells a TV interviewer that she lacked the courage to even see the victim who was battling for her life. The Prime Minister belatedly delivers a most unconvincing televised address that fails to answer the fundamental issues or inspire any confidence in the people.
And the Home Minister drops chilling hints of more repression to come in a most casual manner in a TV interview, questioning the protestors' right and defending the government's indefensible attitude. According to the Home Minister, the protestors had no reason or right to continue with the protests when 'Soniaji' had already met a delegation! What monumental audacity and shameless sycophancy on the part of the person who is supposedly in charge of the home affairs of the country! Sonia Gandhi's meeting with the so-called 'delegation' remains entirely shrouded in mystery – the thousands of people protesting in the face of water cannons in a chilly December afternoon had no idea about the credentials of the delegation and whatever transpired in its secret meeting with the Congress president. How on earth could the Home Minister expect the protests to end simply because a chosen few had the privilege of meeting the Congress chief!
When asked why no responsible senior functionary of the government met the protestors, the Home Minister had the cheek to say that no government could afford to set such a dangerous precedent. And then he adduced the most chilling logic – 'if we go and talk to these people today, tomorrow when hundred adivasis are killed in Maharashtra or Chhattisgarh, we will be expected to go there'! Here is the most candid confession from the horse's mouth of how brutal repression of the poor and marginalised is treated as a taken-for-granted fact of everyday life by the state, and any form of accountability for state atrocities in such contexts is dismissed as ridiculous, even as every single mass protest is increasingly viewed by the government through the dangerous lens of Operation Greenhunt.
Some commentators have asked why issues of sexual violence in rural India or anywhere beyond Delhi where rape is used as a weapon of feudal oppression, communal violence or state repression do not get the kind of 'middle class' attention that this particular case has attracted. Well, there is always the proverbial last straw on the camel's back or the last nail in a coffin. It is wrong to presume that the people outraged by this specific incident have all been blind to other cases of sexual violence. Mass protests in the capital of India have already come a long way from the candle-light vigils triggered by the murder of Jessica Lal to the street battles with the police on the issue of brutal gang-rape of an unknown 23-year-old student. It will be the height of intellectual arrogance and sheer snobbery and sterile political pedantry to dismiss or devalue the protests as concerns of an isolated urban middle class and try and pit them against issues of caste oppression, communal violence or state repression.
The need of the hour is not to pit one case of sexual violence against another, but to see and show the hidden links and work for an unstoppable and comprehensive democratic awakening. The rulers are already revealing the links – we must grasp them and storm all bastions of oppression and win every battle for democracy. The protests of December 2012 have already provided a great spark that the cause of genuine freedom and democracy needs at this hour of all-round crisis and concerted state-corporate, feudal-communal and patriarchal assault on the dignity, livelihood and democratic rights of large sections of the Indian people.
Assembly Elections in Gujarat and Himachal:
The year 2012 had begun with Assembly elections in the five states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttaranchal, Goa and Manipur. The year now comes to an end following elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. Governments have been changed in four of these seven states – UP has gone back from the BSP to the SP, Uttaranchal and now Himachal have been wrested by the Congress from the BJP while Goa has witnessed an independent BJP-led government for the first time. In the three other states, the ruling parties have successfully retained power, expectedly so in Manipur and Gujarat, and quite unpredictably in Punjab.
From the point of view of the rivalry between the Congress and the BJP, most crucial among these seven states were the elections in Uttar Pradesh in Gujarat. UP was of course not expected to be won by either of these two all-India parties of the ruling classes – the only point of interest was to find out if and how much the two parties could regain their lost ground. The result however revealed that both parties had actually lost more ground, being relegated further to the political margins. The multipolar political scene of UP had turned considerably bipolar, with the SP and BSP knocking out the Congress and the BJP from what a decade ago used to be four-corner contest in the state. If in 2007, the BSP had won with record number of seats in the Assembly, in 2012, it was the SP's turn to steal the show.
A BJP victory in Gujarat was of course a foregone conclusion, and the state has sprung no basic surprise in that respect. In the two previous exit polls in 2002 and 2007, the psephological pundits had tended to underestimate the strength of Narendra Modi and this time around, most of them had quite generously predicted a sweeping victory for Modi, with projections ranging from 120 to even 140. Gujarat has corrected that excessive exuberance of the pro-Modi camp, subtracting two seats from his erstwhile kitty of 117 seats while granting two seats more to the Congress, raising its tally from 59 to 61. Instrumental in this was the emergence of the Gujarat Parivartan Party under the leadership of former CM Keshubhai Patel. The GPP, which managed to win only three seats, was perhaps effective enough to damage the BJP's prospects in a dozen or so seats. BJP dissidents organised under the Himachal Lokhit Party also played a role in ensuring the BJP's defeat in Himachal Pradesh.
Modi's dangerous mix of aggressive communalism, unabashed Gujarati pride and unbridled corporate-driven economics, delivered in the inimitable Modispeak, the heady rabble-rousing rhetoric that has acquired a distinct identity, was always considered a sure winner in the given socio-economic and political balance of Gujarat where pockets of rural destitution and urban poverty are sought to be obliterated from the public vision by the dazzling display of corporate wealth, and the disturbing memories and facts of the 2002 genocide and the subsequent brutal reality of a series of staged encounter killings lie buried in the dark depths of official oblivion and conspiratorial silence.
Many political analysts believe this model can be replicated nationally and the Modi caravan is now all set to march from Ahmedabad to Delhi. But this is precisely where the Himachal results should inject a necessary sense of sobriety. The Congress managed to wrest Himachal Pradesh even as it lies badly discredited on account of mega corruption and a grave economic crisis resulting from its blatantly pro-corporate, anti-people policies. The popular anger against the corrupt and non-performing BJP government in Himachal proved more powerful and potent than the general disenchantment with the Congress. And Narendra Modi's campaigning did little to improve the BJP's prospect in Himachal. The idea that Modi can revive an otherwise stagnant or even declining BJP on an all-India scale certainly did not come good in Himachal Pradesh.
Die-hard Modi admirers have already begun to dream of Modi occupying the Prime Ministerial bungalow at 7 Race Course Road (Mukesh Ambani has recalled his father Dhirubhai having once described Modi as a 'lambi race ka ghoda', a horse capable of running and winning a long race). Modi himself is acutely aware of the Modi-as-PM campaign and does not really hide his Prime Ministerial ambition. Significantly enough, he delivered his victory speech in Hindi, attributing his victory not only to the six crore Gujaratis (even though the BJP's vote share has never touched even 50% in spite of the well-entrenched bipolarity in Gujarat's electoral politics), but describing it as a vindication for all Indians who wanted to prosper. He also tendered an arrogant 'apology' of sorts, seeking the people's blessing to save him from any 'inadvertent mistake', and saying in the same breath that the people can never be wrong (read, any crime can be committed in the name of the people).
The corporate world too greatly relishes the prospect and countries like Britain and the US that had shunned Modi since 2002 have already been indicating their readiness to welcome him back. Some of the NDA allies like JD(U) may of course find it difficult to accept Modi as PM, but the loss of a partner in some state may always be offset by the return of some other estranged ally elsewhere. Many however believe that the BJP itself is perhaps less ready than its partners to project or accept Modi at the centre of its national scheme of things.
But at the end of the day, the shame and calamity of having a Narendra Modi at the helm of the Indian state can only be stopped by the people of India. The more the struggle against corporate plunder intensifies in 2013, and the more the people of India come out on the streets to secure their democratic rights, the more difficult will it be for the BJP to return to power and Modi to realise his dangerous dream.
AISA, AIPWA, RYA, AICCTU Join the Upsurge Against Sexual Violence
In Delhi AISA, AIPWA, and RYA were at the forefront of the protests against sexual violence – with the rallying cry "When not a corner of the city is safe for women, it is time to turn every corner into a site of protest!"
The JNUSU organized protests and chakka jam (road blockade) at Vasant Vihar thana (close to the site of the rape). AISA, AIPWA and RYA braved water cannons at Sheila Dixit's house. Massive protests called by JNUSU and AISA have been held at India Gate – with student protestors marching to the Home Ministry defying all security arrangements one night, and holding a sit-in till the Home Minister met a delegation. JNUSU as well as AISA-RYA called for a vigil at Safdarjung Hospital, which was spontaneously joined by women lab technicians and doctors from the Hospital itself.
Activists of the DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) Unity Centre (affiliated to AICCTU) distributed a leaflet in support of the struggle for women's rights, and pointing out that the Delhi rape case underlined the need for a comprehensive network of DTC buses in the city instead of anarchic and privatized, insecure transport allowed by the Delhi Government.
Protest demonstrations and meetings were held at various areas of Delhi, organised by the party. At one such meeting at a slum cluster in Wazirpur, where many women spontaneously joined the party's demonstration, one comrade was greeted with much appreciation and applause when he said, "Candle marches are all very well, but women should have sandals in their hands!"
All over the country, AISA, AIPWA, and RYA have held protests. In Allahabad, 1000 women students joined a March organized by AISA and the Women's Cell of Allahabad University. At Patna, a massive demonstration took place in which large numbers of women students, nurses, and others joined. Enthusiastic district-level protests were held all over Bihar and Jharkhand. Powerful protests were held at Banaras, Chennai, Kolkata, Guwahati and Jorhat and as we go to press, the protests continue.
Mass Hunger Strikes in Jharkhand
On the 12th anniversary of the formation of Jharkhand state, the CPI(ML) conducted a fortnight long campaign against corporate loot of minerals, Coal Block Scam, forcible land grabs, issues of para-teachers, and rights of panchayats and corruption. This campaign was concluded at all district headquarters on 15 November. On this day thousands of people led by CPI(ML) MLA Vinod Singh, took part in a mass hunger strike at Giridih district headquarter. Similar mass hungers strikes were also held in all other places. In dumka, hunger strikers were led by Ramchandra Manjhi and Bitiya Manjhi, while Gita Mandal and Sahdeo Yadav led hundreds of people in Deoghar. Large number of people took part in Dhanbad, Bokaro, Ramgarh, Palamou, etc. In Ranchi, strikers paid tribute to Martyr Birsa Munda before starting the hunger strike. This was attended by large sections of urban poor, women construction workers, as well as many intellectuals of the city. Speakers here condemned the ongoing loot, repression and betrayals by the governments. Bahadur Oraon said that the political establishment has misused Martyr Birsa Oraon's name only to crush the aspirations and dreams of very same people for whom he laid down his life. CPI(ML) Jharkhand State Secretary Janardan Prasad said that the last twelve years of the Jharkhand state have proved to be a shameful era of loot and corruption in the history of the state. He blamed all political parties and their leaders who themselves are involved in this loot of Jharkhandi people's resources.
Towards 9th Party Congress
The preparations for the forthcoming 9th Party Congress of CPI(ML) are on in full swing in the host state Jharkhand. The Congress is scheduled to be held on April 2-6, 2013 in Ranchi. Party cadres and members are enthusiastically taking part at every level in ongoing campaign, propaganda and mass collections. Recently cadre conventions were held in six zones which were attended by all leading cadres of the state. These conventions were addressed by senior party leaders including party General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya. A Convention of Santhal Pargana zone was held in Godda on 8 December which was addressed by Com. Dipankar and Jharkhand State Secretary Janardan Prasad. A group of new activists also joined the party on this occasion, who earlier had left JMM. Activists of Giridih and Koderma region organised a convention in Giridih. Nearly 600 participated here. This was led and addressed by Vinod Singh and other state leaders. The activists resolved to make every effort for the Party's Congress and to make the forthcoming rally to be held in January in Bagodar on the occasion of martyrdom anniversary of Comrade Mahendra Singh a great success. Party CC's call for the VM Memorial Day was read out and discussed in the convention. The participants reported about the preparations and achievements in this regard. It was resolved to further intensify the campaign and take it to every home of every village in our areas with launching of 'Vikalp Jathhas' (people's contingents for alternative) at village level. Comrade DP Bukshi, Politburo member was also present in this convention.
A convention was held in Ramgarh on 10 December for the Hazaribagh zone which resolved to conduct a three-day campaign before 18 December. The convention held in Ranchi was attended by cadres from Ranchi, Gumla, Lohardagga and Jamshedpur region. A convention of Bokaro and Dhanbad was held on 12 December in Bokaro. This was attended by good number of comrades from working class. They resolved to make the forthcoming general strike on 20-21 February 2013 a great success. A plan was chalked out for intensive propaganda against loot of minerals and land by corporates and FDI. This was addressed by Comrades Dipankar, Janardan and DP Bakshi and presided and conducted by Deodeep Singh Diwakar and Subhendu Sen.
A Convention was held on VM Memorial Day, 18 December, in Daltanganj which was attended by comrades from Palamou region. Block Secretaries presented their reports regarding the Congress preparations. This was presided by party district secretaries of Palamou, Latehar and Garhwa. Some comrades shared their experiences of conducting Vikalpa Jathhas in their areas and told about the massive mass support they received in the campaign. It was decided to accomplish the collection of party members' contribution towards 9th Congress before 15 January. It was also decided to hold memorial rallies on 16 January in all towns of the region. All conventions were addressed by Comrade Dipankar. The Conventions concluded with a very enthusiastic note and comrades resolved to make 9th Congress and ongoing political campaign a great success by banking on people's support and involvement.
VM Memorial Day Commemorated
The 14th Anniversary of the sad demise of Comrade VM was observed in all the states as 'Pledge Day' where whole party pledged to make the forthcoming Party's 9th Congress a great success and take it forward to make the dream, as envisioned by Comrade Vinod Mishra, for the communist revolution in India a reality.
Memorial meetings were held in all centres in Uttar Pradesh where Comrade VM's contributions in the communist movement were recalled by the speakers.
In Odisha the 14th anniversary of Com. VM was observed at Nagbhusan Bhaban on 18th dec as Sankalp Diwas. Central committee member com Arindam Sen addressed this meeting and called for strengthening the party to fulfil the dreams of VM and to make success the party's 9th Congress through a massive grassroot level campaign in his inspiring speech. He emphasized on the fact that the Nation is going in the hands of corporatocracy instead of democracy, and at this juncture our Party should fight to save the nation from the hands of corporates. Comrade Kshitish Biswal, State Secretary of Odisha, Yudhisthir Mohapatra, Radhakant Sethi and Satyabadi Behera also addressed the meet and called for a massive campaign up to the villages and to achieve all round expansion of the Party before the forthcoming Congress.
In Uttarakhand the Pledge Day was observed in many districts and tributes paid to the memory of Comrade VM. A GBM was held in Bindukhatta in Nainital district where Party's State Secretary Rajendra Pratholi called for making 9th Congress a great success and asked every member of the party to intensify the efforts towards study of the proposed documents, new membership recruitments, and the mass campaign in this direction. He recalled how the Party sailed through massive state repression and various hardships since 70s to the present day and attained a distinguished place in the communist movement under Comrade VM's leadership. He also explained the importance of All India General Strike to be held on 20-21 February called by trade unions in the wake of all the ruling class parties going openly to serve the interests of big corporates in India as well as of foreign countries at the cost of the Indian people. Memorial meetings were also held in Pithoragarh, Bhikiasain, Shrinagar and Gauchar.
The Pledge Day was observed all over in Bihar with good participation and enthusiasm. In Patna district a week long campaign was organised among all the members of party on the call of the Central Committee. This was taken to the branch-level where party's political campaign, 9th Congress preparations, and all organisational requirements were discussed in detail.
In Delhi, a Cadre meet was organised on 18 December at Charu Bhawan where floral tributes were paid to Comrade VM and CC's call and 9th Congress preparations were discussed in one session and discussions on the proposed Party Programme were held in the next session. Comrades Prabhat Kumar and Kavita Krishnan spoke on the occasion. It was resolved to carry the CC's Call and 9th Congress preparations at every branch and ensure the involvement of every party member in the campaign.
Pledge Day was commemorated in different centres of Rajasthan. In Udaipur, good number of party members attended the memorial meet. They pledged to work hard towards the 9th Congress of Party and make it a great success. Many new members were also recruited on this occasion.
Similar programmes were also held in all other states and resolutions were taken to make the 9th Party Congress a great success.
AICCTU's Jail Bharo
Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication,
R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22518248, e-mail: email@example.com, website: www.cpiml.org